How to Successfully Grow Pumpkins
When someone says the word ‘pumpkin’, one can’t help but invoke images of delicious pies and stews, crisp cool evenings and the promise of ghosts and goblins being driven mad by those ghoulish lit pumpkins with their eerie orange glow. It is the ultimate symbol of autumn that has inspired many stories, candle scents and latte flavors. Without realizing it, we are in our own way, worshipping this rotund fruit. So why not learn to grow it, and reap those orange babies at the end of the season with whimsical pride.
Growing The Patch - How Long Does Pumpkin Take to Grow?
Pumpkins are a magical plant, but also need a long growing season in order to grow and harvest them. Plant the seeds directly in the ground. They’re tender plants, so they need warm soil (70° or warmer is best). The end of May is usually a good time to plant. They love rich soil that’s well drained. You can mix compost into the soil before planting to feed the chubby fruit. Pumpkins also like to sprawl out when growing, so give them space.
After choosing a nice spot for your patch, create your rows by building pumpkin hills, each the size of a small bucket. This allows the soil to become warmer and give the vines room to cascade down. This also allows better drainage for your pumpkins. Plant the seed 1 inch deep into the soil. You can plant up to 5 seeds per hill, just make sure those hills are 4 to 8 feet apart. Start thinning them when they get about 2 to 3 inches tall. Thin them down to 2 to 3 plants a hill by snipping them instead of pulling them out. This will prevent you from disturbing the root system.
If a few cold nights creep in during the early season, cover your plants. Just make sure to remove the covering during the day when it’s warm. These plants are thirsty and need lots of watering. When watering, keep to the base of the plant and try not to get the fruit wet. These plants are delicate, so any damage to the vines can affect how much pumpkins they put out. Remember–patience is key here. If your flowers are not fruiting, just wait. It will take most of the season for your orange globes to grow and be full.
Once your pumpkins start growing, make sure to rotate them so that they’re not oddly shaped (unless you prefer warped pumpkins, which are kind of cool). But to make sure they don’t rot while touching the ground, place a sturdy piece of cardboard underneath.
Most pumpkin types typically mature between 90 and 100 days, but some may take up to 120 days. Seeds typically germinate within 10-14 days.
Pumpkin Harvest Time
When the pumpkins turn a solid color (orange or other), it’s time to harvest. You can test this out by giving a couple knocks on the fruit. It should be solid while sounding hollow. Cut the fruit with pruners. No ripping these moons off the vine! Leave a couple inches of stem to keep your pumpkin firm and plump longer. It’s best to harvest them on a dry day.
If you’re keeping them longer than the Halloween season, sun cure them for a week to strengthen the rind, then place them in a root cellar or cool dry room. Growing and harvesting your patch with care will leave you with pumpkin goodies for days!
The Benefits of Pumpkin
It is indeed magic what these amazing pumpkins can bestow upon you with their health benefits. Filled to the brim with vitamins and minerals, it contains tons of vitamin A, C and E. Containing lots of carotenoids, it’s good for eye health. It’s super rich in fiber but low in calories, keeping you fuller longer. With all this goodness, it is no surprise to find out that it lowers the risks of certain cancers and helps with diabetes by lowering blood glucose levels. It’s also amazing for the skin by protecting from UV rays and keeping it hydrated. One fun recipe is to boil or steam some pumpkin, then mash and mix it with either honey or milk for a decadent face mask. Apply and leave on for 10 to 15 minutes then rinse with warm water. Voila! Now you have baby soft skin.
Out of all the fruits, this one has by far the coolest and most meaningful history to me. As a big fan of Halloween, nothing says spooky time is here than those rotund jack-o’-lanterns hanging out on porches and inside entryways. Their sinister expressions lit up, always sends chills of excitement up my spine. Halloween (Or Samhain) was celebrated by the ancient Celts. This was the time when the veil between this world and the spirit world was the thinnest. It was a time to remember and communicate with those who have passed. But also on this night, some believed that the spirits would pass through and mess up their crops. To help prevent this, In Ireland they would hollow out turnips, then carve out frightening faces to scare evil spirits away. It was when Irish immigrants came to the US, that turnips were not prevalent as they were in Ireland, but pumpkins were, thus a new custom began and has now become one of the most popular traditions in the US.
Pumpkins have also played a huge role in modern day culture: with Cinderella’s pumpkin carriage, Charlie Brown’s The Great Pumpkin and hordes of Halloween movies surrounding this spooky fruit, continue to conjure nostalgic feelings during the Autumn months. As we move into the season of the pumpkin, and even when the last leaf falls, this delicious, magical, and healthy fruit will have a place in our hearts and on our plates.
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